The Modernization of Emacs: terminology buffer and keybinding

Frank Goenninger frgo at
Sat Sep 29 12:54:32 CEST 2007

On 2007-09-29 01:27:04 +0200, Damien Kick <dkixk at> said:

> Giorgos Keramidas wrote:
>> On Fri, 22 Jun 2007 23:08:02 -0000, nebulous99 at wrote:
>>> So much for the "free" in "free software". If you can't actually use
>>> it without paying money, whether for the software or for some book, it
>>> isn't really free, is it?
>> Please do not confuse the term 'free' in 'free software' with 'gratis'.
>> 'Gratis', i.e. 'lacking a monetary price tag' is something *very*
>> different from the meaning of 'free' in 'free software'.
> If you were referring to the "free" in "free Mumia Abu Jamal", I would 
> agree with you.  I don't think anyone would imagine that this phrase 
> meant that someone was going to get Mumia Abu Jamal gratis.  Like it or 
> not, "free software" referring to "free as in beer" is probably the 
> most common interpretation of the phrase for a native English speaker. 
> Admittedly, I do not have a "scientific" survey handy.  However, I just 
> asked my wife--who has absolutely no interest in anything related to 
> programming, has never heard of the FSF, Eric Raymond, nor the 
> disagreement between those two camps, nor probably will she ever have 
> an interest--what she thinks I mean when I say "free software".  After 
> getting over the "why are you asking such a stupid question" phase, the 
> first thing that jumped to her mind was "free as in beer".  You can 
> stamp, growl, swagger, spit, curse, and bluster all you want on this 
> point, but millions of English speakers are going to ignore you anyway. 
>   Lucky for most of them, they do not have to suffer the lectures of 
> sociopolitically motivated language mavens trying to "correct" them 
> from the error of mistaking the meaning of a phrase to be the normal 
> meaning of that phrase.

Fully true for non-native English speakers as well. Just did the "wife 
test" also - she is a pure software user - and yes, free is "no money, 
do what you want" and that's it.

I *never* use the term "free" if I don't want to imply "free beer" 
(which is a Good Thing and as such highly valuated - ask any Bavarian). 
Using "free" as by FSF or any other lawyer-style 6 pixel font printed 
phrasing is pure perfidiousness.


  Frank Goenninger


  "Don't ask me! I haven't been reading comp.lang.lisp long enough to 
really know ..."


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